11 Reasons To Let Your Kids Make a Mess Outside - Baby Chick
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11 Reasons To Let Your Kids Make a Mess Outside

I may be a clean freak, but letting your kids play and make a mess outside is good. Here are 11 reasons why!

Published April 14, 2016

Two weeks ago, my husband and I hosted a cocktail party. While sipping wine and taking bites from the charcuterie boards, I was talking to a fellow mama about life with toddlers. We swapped war stories of our “not-so-shining parenting moments.” After laughing hysterically and commiserating, she remarked how impressed she was that I managed to keep such a tidy house with two toddler boys. I was utterly flattered by her compliment, but I quickly revealed that I work on it with my toddlers all day. When we’re done playing with one thing, the boys know we put it away before moving on to the next activity. We make our fair share of messes along the way!

Let Your Little Ones Make Memories and Messes

My best tip for letting them be little, living in the moment, and making memories and messes while keeping my home clean is this: GO OUTSIDE! Get outdoors. Every day if you can. Climb hills, hike, splash in a puddle, build a sandcastle, get down and dirty. Just do it away from your living room.

Despite my “type A” certifiable clean freak-ness, my notable girlie-ness, and my need to always be in control, I am totally cool with my little dudes getting outside and getting dirty. And I encourage it. There are many benefits beyond keeping your house clean (although that’s a huge bonus). Today, I’m sharing why I let my littles make messes outside.


1. It Teaches Them Independence

On a hiking trail, my husband walks several paces ahead with our Labrador to alert us to any precautions we may need to take; “Watch your step here” or “Be careful over there.” This allows our toddlers to navigate the path safely but independently, with mommy following behind in case they genuinely need a helping hand. Doing this has given our children confidence and self-reliance while exploring, touching, and feeling nature for themselves. If they stumble and get dirty, they brush themselves off and keep going. Seeing them learning completely hands-on and independently makes my heart smile so big.

Read More: Best Toys for Outdoor Play

2. They Develop Their Senses and Fine Motor Skills

As a parent, it’s thrilling to watch your child’s eyes light up while digging their toes in the sand at the playground, running their fingers over fresh moss growing on a tree at the park and picking through pebbles to find the perfect round one to put in their pocket. Or splashing in a puddle at the end of the driveway after a big rain. It’s with these little discoveries that they are training their senses. They are using fine motor skills to learn about textures in nature. They are using their senses to decide how they feel about them and making countless memories. It doesn’t get better than that.

3. They Use Their Imagination In BIG Ways

Have you noticed how quickly a jungle gym can become a princess castle or pirate ship in the eyes of a toddler? Or how a walk through the park can become an African safari? These moments of imagination are signs of substantial intellectual development. Sure, you could easily engage your toddler in imaginative play indoors (and you should), but taking it outside adds a new layer of complexity to the storyline. It can spark new ideas and scenarios to learn from.


4. It Helps Their Coordination and Balance

Attempting a bike ride, walking across a fallen log, and climbing up a rocky trail requires coordination and balance that you can’t acquire without taking a tumble or two and learning cause and effect. It’s a messy process that can result in scuffed knees and muddy shoes, but the payoff is allowing your child to master these skills at their own pace.

5. They Learn to Self-direct, and Their Attention Spans Increase

When my littles are making mud pies, a part of me cringes thinking about the laundry I’m bound to face that evening. But then I watch as the seconds turn into minutes, and soon, an hour passes, and they have been completely engaged in play. Without fighting, without my intervention, without me having to tell them what to do. They pull out a different toy every five minutes when we’re playing inside.

Nothing holds their attention long before they destroy their room and quickly claim boredom. They look to me to advise them on what activity they can engage in next. And let’s be honest, sometimes we all run out of things for our tots to do indoors. Getting messy outside engages kids in a way that no toy can. As a result, they can focus their attention on their current activity and play independently and confidently.


6. It Increases Vitamin D

Sunscreen is essential, but playing outside exposes your kiddo to a healthy dose of vitamin D (so long as you’re not overexposing them). Vitamin D helps increase bone strength and improves the immune system. Did you know that it can also aid in more restorative sleep?

7. Playing Hard Outside Wears Them Out

Whenever we have resistance at nap time, my go-to solution is sunshine. We get outside and take a long walk. We explore, we talk, we share ideas, and we laugh. Then we work our way back toward the house, much more ready to wind down for an afternoon nap. Once, we did a big hike at the nature preserve just outside of town, and our boys hadn’t slept that hard in a long time. Our two-year-old, who still wakes at 3 a.m. nightly requesting a drink, didn’t make a peep all night. It was worth the 4 ½ miles we hiked that day.

8. Exploring Green Space Can Reduce Your Child’s Stress

According to a study, views of nature and outdoor play in green space helps aid in stress reduction for kids.1 You might be thinking, what must a three-year-old be stressed about? But have you ever seen your little one flip their lid when trying to get them to share a toy? Toddlers are high-strung; it’s a part of development. But taking a roll in the green grass can help reduce their stress and increase positive social interactions.

The study states, “Green spaces foster social interaction and promote social support.”1 It sounds like a good enough reason for me to “go green” for playtime!


9. Dirt Can Improve Immunity

Playing in dirt and soil and exposure to different microbes and bacteria can build your child’s immunity.2 I wouldn’t recommend eating those mud pies your toddler is making in the backyard, but a little dirt won’t hurt!

10. Making a Mess = Making Memories

I read a sign once that said, “Excuse our mess; we’re making memories.” My initial reaction was this: your home doesn’t need to be a mess for your children to make memories if that’s not “your thing.” Frankly, the idea of a consistently messy house completely stressed me out. I don’t think it’s conducive to making happy memories at all. But I get it; making a mess is fun. And I do enjoy the time spent outside getting dirty with my children. There will be plenty of time for me to fix my manicure, but right now, we’ll make muddy memories outside (and we’ll leave the mess there, too).

11. It’s Good for YOU, Mama!

I never knew until I had two boys and an Eagle Scout for a husband just how much I enjoyed getting outside. I can’t stand the gym, but I love a long hike. I am not great at sports, but I can dribble a soccer ball with my four-year-old. Getting sweaty, burning calories, having fun, and playing with my littles release all those positive endorphins you get from a good workout, but you don’t even notice you’re doing it. That’s a pretty great healthy bonus to family-friendly fun!

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Sarah Ring is a mother to two elementary-aged sons and one toddler daughter. She is passionate about travel, date nights, Southern manners & traditional children’s clothing, but above all, finding… Read more

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